Hawaii: islands and marvels

Say 'Hawaii' and the mind immediately conjures images of brightly coloured flowers, palm-fringed beaches, hula dancing and exotic floral lei. You've seen it in the movies, but can our photo gallery inspire you to visit and see the beautiful archipelago first hand?

Leave your work clothes behind. Just pack a bag with bikinis, sandals and pareos, and head west. Way out west. Hawaii may be the 50th American state, but the archipelago is actually the northernmost island group in Polynesia, set way off in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, around 2,000 miles south west of the North American mainland. The whole chain of Hawaiian islands stretches for over 1,500 miles and numbers in the hundreds. There are eight main islands, though, with names as evocative as Kauai ('the garden isle'), Molokai ('the friendly isle'), Oahu ('the gathering place') home to the state capital Honolulu and the legendary Waikiki Beach, and Hawaii itself – known as Big Island to distinguish it from the State of Hawaii.

The islands bask in a tropical climate and with a total of around 750 miles of coastline offer endless beaches of fine white sand, and an almost unspoiled natural habitat that makes it a dream location. It's also the perfect holiday destination for water sports enthusiasts – windsurfing, diving, canoeing... – whale watching, volcano exploration, or just enjoying the sun, sands and scenery.

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